Creating curb appeal for NYC buildings with works of art

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s bronze polka-dotted pumpkin outside Sky in Midtown West. 

Tim Waltman for Evan Joseph Images

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Curb appeal is not just for houses in the suburbs. In New York City, curb appeal usually means some well-tended flower beds or ornate planters, but developers are moving beyond shrubbery by commissioning art installations to draw eyes—and buyers.

It's a design trick borrowed from office buildings that is increasingly found in new condo buildings. By installing artworks that are visible from the street, developers create a statement entrance for their residents and may catch the eye of an art aficionado in the market for a new apartment. 

Whether you’re among the latter or just looking to take your next great Instagram shot, here are four examples of NYC apartment buildings that are taking curb appeal to a new level.

Art on rotation 

In the lobby of 50 West in the Financial District is a glass-walled exhibition area (above) that can be seen from multiple vantage points inside and outside the building. The space hosts a rotating art display, which currently features a 10-foot-tall twisted sculpture by artist Alice Aycock, whose works can be found in the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. 

"The art was inspired by the architecture of 50 West; there is an interplay of the spiral of the sculpture with the curved facade of 50 West, and several other art works throughout the building depict 50 West as it was being constructed," says Francis Greenburger, CEO and founder of Time Equities. "Art was not just placed in or about the building as a decorative element, but was approached as an integral element to the experience of being in the building, as the art and architecture are integral to one another. Art plays a significant role in 50 West, and many of our buildings." 

Tied to the past

Rachel Mica Weiss’ dramatic “Inverted Arches” in the lobby of 525 West 52nd St. in Hell's Kitchen consists of 20 feet of nylon rope whose shadows change throughout the course of the day. The industrial installation can be seen from the street and pays homage to the neighborhood’s history. 

The piece is one of 38 that Taconic Investment Partners curated with Art Assets which "express a cohesive theme of appreciating light, architecture, and industry while at the same time fostering a sense of wonder and a personal identity among residents," says Andrew Schwartz, assistant vice president at Taconic. "Weiss’ piece is a conversation starter, and as one of the first things people see when visiting or passing by.” 

Infinity and beyond 

“The Summit of Manhattan,” found outside Summit at 222 East 44th St., is the first U.S.-based sculpture from Australian artist and sculptor Todd Stuart. Stuart’s eye-catching piece, which reimagines the infinity symbol, is on top of a reflecting pool and is made of stainless steel with a mirrored finish that "is a reflection of the finer things in life, which is what we want to portray as residents enter the Summit and for passerby,” says Lloyd Goldman, president of BLDG. “We wanted to provide our residents with an overall luxurious and cultural lifestyle, from the moment they enter the building.”

Permanent pumpkins

Pumpkins have long been an easy way to add some seasonal curb appeal, but the unique bronze gourd on display at Sky in Midtown West, which was designed by Hill West Architects in collaboration with Rockwell Group, adds a bit of polka-dotted drama year-round. Created by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, the pumpkin can be found in the building’s cobbled entry court that’s accessible by foot or car.